What instruments we have agree: It's best not to get toooo precious in the search for ways around monotonous repetitions of 'he said' in dialogue. Some are shamelessly direct--another form of preciousness--in repeating it even where it doesn't need repeating:
'It's raining out today,' I said.
'It'll rain tomorrow too,' she said.
'But what've you got under your knickers?' I said.
'You didn't have to ask last night,' she said.
Others wallow in the preciousness of complete nonattribution:
Scene: Bill, Bob and Marylou are out having a beer before...whatever.
"You want another, Marylou?"
"Who was that, Bill or Bob?"
"I don't know, I'm already confused. Bob?"
"Better be. I don't feel like Marylou."
"But what about me?"
"Which me are you?"
These and related thoughts are on my mind as we finetune the first pages for our beta readers. Some decent working rules of thumb: 1) in general, stick to 'said' but set the scenes up carefully--with the odd telling gesture--so that we always know who's speaking without having to repeat 's/he said'...2) Occasionally, a forbidden adverb can bring a 'said' sentence to life: Lawrence Sanders was a master at this and at never overdoing it: e.g., 'he said shortly'...'he said jovially'...3) The right verb can also do the trick: Now and then a profane phrase in Sanders will be followed by 'he thundered'--not 'said' or 'shouted' or 'bellowed'....4) Break the rules now and then: Brad Strickland likes to keep it simple. But in one sentence he has a medical examiner 'opine' instead of 'say '--and we get a flash of character that would have been lost if the line had been toed.
Back to work, I say...and Get it right, I thunder.